Consultation on proposals to devolve responsibility for various aspects of culture from DCMS to the Elected Regional Assemblies

The regional agencies for museums, libraries and archives are well-placed to fit into a regional funding structure and we see no problems with funding for them being devolved to the Elected Regional Assemblies.

However, the situation for the museums in the affected regions, which are funded by DCMS is more complex and we are aware that Tyne and Wear Museums, at least, has some concerns about the proposals. We urge DCMS to step back from making a decision about devolving this funding for now and to take time to consider the broader picture.

Firstly, there is clearly the potential to create unhelpful inconsistencies in the way DCMS supports non-national museums. For instance, responsibility for funding the Geffrye and the Horniman was not devolved to the GLA.

Secondly, devolving funding in this way could also give rise to the kind of confusion, which will make it harder for the museums concerned to be accountable to their stakeholders and harder for them to make the case for continued funding, once the initial ring-fencing comes to an end. The DCMS funding was allocated to Tyne and Wear Museums and to the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester on the basis of the national significance of their collections. They do not have a purely regional role. If they are funded via the Regional Assemblies, their ability to work with other national museums in projects across the UK may be undermined. The Regional Assemblies might, understandably, consider that it was not their responsibility to fund the national aspect of their work.

Thirdly, the proposals raise questions about the future of Renaissance in the Regions. For instance, Tyne and Wear Museums are part of the North East hub. Under the proposals in the consultation, they would continue to receive Renaissance in the Regions funding from DCMS, via MLA, but would receive the core support previously provided by DCMS from the Elected Regional Assembly. This would mean that they were being provided with funding based on their regional significance (i.e. the Renaissance funding) by a national body, and funding based on their national significance (i.e. the current DCMS support) by a regional body.

Given these potential pitfalls, we believe it would be sensible to take this opportunity to undertake a simple review of the basis on which this kind of funding is provided by DCMS to some non-national museums, to ensure consistency and fairness of approach. This funding may be the result of historical accident rather than strategy, but it provides essential support to museums, which do play an important national role. We urge DCMS not to run the risk of undermining these museums, but to give the matter more careful consideration.

Helen Wilkinson